clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

On Restaurants' Responsibility to Age Gracefully: The Bruni Investigates

Somewhat quietly, Frank Bruni has become taken with the subject of how restaurants age. According to his partially anecdotal research, they increasingly age very quickly and dramatically, especially just following reviews. He notes significant price increases at Country, Little Owl and Falai immediately following particularly good reviews; service declines at Falai and Buddakan, another restaurant he thoroughly praised at review time; and, at Wild Salmon, the Bruni discovers the curious case of a missing penguin on the baked Alaska. The very best restaurants age well, of course, and should run better five years after they opened than they did on day one. But this is an interesting trend the Bruni is onto—and one that has our attention as well.

Price increases are all well and good in that they make economic sense. If there's a two hour wait for dinner at Little Owl, owners Stulman and Campanaro aren't maximizing profit, and, let's be clear, restaurants aren't nonprofits. But when it's service and quality declines, we take issue. Wild Salmon's head mouthpiece Karine Bakhoum said about the penguin, "You know how creative chefs are, they decided to try something new that was also less labor intensive." This is simply not acceptable, if the disappearing penguin is an indicator of more broad streamlining now that the critics are gone. At Tutto il Giorno—located in Sag Harbor, but of note because it is Scott Conant's follow-up to Alto and waits on a Monday can be two hours—an heirloom tomato with burrata salad was stunning in June, but has become a mess of late: a weak buffalo mozzarella has, without apology from the kitchen, replaced the oozing, magical burrata. Another example is Peter Luger, of course, where decades of success has created an indifference to quality and a complacency with their slow slide that is, really, nauseating.

At the end of the day, we're certainly hoping all of this amounts to a giant exception to the rule as stated above, that good restaurants get better with age. And no one is saying running restaurants is easy (well, no one but Danny Meyer, that is), but let's make a note here, and hope we don't have to return to the topic anytime soon.
· A Plea for Respect for a Familiar Fish [NYT]
· How Quickly and How Much to Menu Prices Change? [Bruniblog]
· Circling Back: Falai [Bruniblog]
· Circling Back: Buddakan [Bruniblog]

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater New York newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world